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Sen. Cruz Urges Merrick Garland to Commit to a Fair Investigation of Gov. Cuomo’s COVID-19 Cover-Up, Prevent Obama-Biden Era Politicization of DOJ

Questions Attorney General nominee at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

February 22, 2021

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WASHINGTON, D.C - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today took part in a full committee hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden's nominee for U.S. Attorney General. His full line of questioning may be viewed below.

WATCH: Cruz Questions AG Nominee Merrick Garland on Durham Investigation, Google, & Gov. Andrew Cuomo

On Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D-N.Y.) government miscounting COVID-related deaths in New York nursing homes, Sen. Cruz asked:

"Nine senators wrote a letter to Chairman Durbin asking this committee to investigate Governor Andrew Cuomo's policies concerning COVID and sending COVID-positive individuals into nursing homes. A senior aide of his admitted to a cover-up to hide information from the Department of Justice. You've committed to a number of investigations here at this hearing today. Will you commit to investigating the extent the Government of New York broke laws or covered up their policies concerning COVID-positive patients in nursing homes?"

Judge Garland responded:

"With all of these investigations, the Justice Department is open to evidence of fraud, false statements, violations of the law. They normally begin in the appropriate way, in the relevant U.S. Attorney's office. And that is the way that something like this, without commenting on this in particular because I don't know the facts."

Sen. Cruz continued:

"But in this instance, the Acting U.S. Attorney is the mother-in-law of the senior official in the Cuomo administration that admitted to the cover-up. Will you at least commit to not having the investigation done by a person with a conflict of interest?"

Judge Garland responded:

"Of course. I don't know any of the facts, but I can guarantee you that someone with a conflict of interest will not be running an investigation of any kind."

READ: Sens. Cruz, Grassley, Graham, Cornyn, Lee, Hawley, Cotton, Tillis, and Blackburn Call for Investigation Into Gov. Andrew Cuomo's COVID-19 Cover-Up

Beginning his line of questioning on Judge Garland's view of an independent, apolitical judiciary, Sen. Cruz asked:

"In two-plus decades on the court, you have built of a reputation for integrity, and for setting aside partisan interests and following the law. The job to which you had been appointed is a very different job. And as I look back over the eight years of the Obama-Biden Justice Department, in my view, the most problematic aspect of that tenure was that the Department of Justice was politicized and weaponized in a way that was directly contrary to over a century of tradition of the Department of Justice of being apolitical and not a partisan tool to target your opponents.

"So it is very much my hope, if you're confirmed as Attorney General, that you will bring that reputation for integrity to the Department of Justice and demonstrate a willingness to stand up for what will be inevitable political pressure to once again politicize the Department of Justice, and use it as a tool to attack the political opponents of the current administration. Eric Holder, before he was nominated as Attorney General, had likewise built a reputation as being relatively non-partisan, and a prosecutor with integrity, and unfortunately, his tenure as Attorney General did enormous damage to that reputation. As was previously discussed, Eric Holder described his role as Attorney General as being the wingman for President Obama. Am I right, in assuming you do not view your role as Attorney General as being Joe Biden's wingman?"

Judge Garland responded:

"Senator, I said I don't want to comment on any individual's conduct as any of my predecessors or FBI directors' conduct in any way, but I can assure you I do not regard myself as anything other than the lawyer for the people of the United States. And I am not the president's lawyer. I am the United States' lawyer, and I will do everything in my power - which I believe is considerable - to fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way. My job is to protect the Department of Justice and its employees in going about their job and doing the right thing, according to the facts and the law."

WATCH: Cruz Q&A With Attorney General Nominee Merrick Garland During Senate Judiciary Confirmation Hearing

On the Obama-Biden administration's targeting of conservatives, Sen. Cruz asked:

"Under the Obama administration the IRS targeted the political opponents of the president, had targeted conservatives for their speech, targeted pro-Israel groups, it targeted Tea Party groups, it targeted individuals perceived to be on the opposite political side of the administration. Will you commit, as Attorney General, that you will not allow the Department of Justice to be used to target those who are perceived as political opponents because they are political opponents?"

Judge Garland responded:

"Absolutely, I will not."

On the Horowitz report, which detailed the Obama administration's broad, political use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) against a law-abiding U.S. citizen, Sen. Cruz asked:

"So you've had - previously you said you've read the executive summary of the Horowitz report. What was your reaction to the Horowitz report?"

Judge Garland responded:

"Well, I thought, as Mr. Horowitz explained, and I believe, Director Wray agreed there were problems with respect to the applications for several FISA's, that those were not, they were not consistent with the internal regulations of the Department, and that those problems had to be corrected. And I think deeply that we have to be careful about how we use FISA, and that's the reason we have pretty strict regulations internally and policies, and we need to find out why they aren't followed, and to be sure that they are followed. And that was the purpose of his report and his recommendations to Director Wray."

Sen. Cruz continued:

"So, you described the report as saying ‘there were problems.' That's a fairly anodyne way of characterizing it given the multiple material misstatements the Horowitz report details, including Mr. Clinesmith's fabrication of evidence and lying to a court, which he's now pleaded guilty to. I think that was yet another example of the deep politicization of the Department of Justice, culminating in a meeting with the acting Attorney General, President Obama, Vice President Biden in the Oval Office concerning the targeting of their political opponent. Will you commit to this committee that under your leadership the Department of Justice will not target the political opponents of this administration, that there will be real scrutiny? What that report outlines, among other things, is weaponizing oppo research from the Hillary Clinton campaign and launching a criminal investigation based on that. Will you commit that that conduct will not be acceptable under any Department of Justice you're leading?"

Judge Garland responded:

"So, absolutely, Senator. But without trying to comment specifically on that matter, it's totally inappropriate for the Department to target any individual because of their politics or their position in a campaign. The only basis for targeting has to be evidence of the risk of foreign intelligence problem or of a criminal problem. And that is a non-partisan issue. That is a question of objective facts and law, and it can never be an effort to help one party or another party. In investigations and prosecutions there is no party. The Department is an independent, nonpartisan actor, and that's my job to ensure that that's the case."

On the Durham probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation during the Obama-Biden administration, Sen. Cruz asked:

"Judge Garland, I want to go back to the topic of protecting the Department of Justice from political influence and being weaponized politically. A number of Senate Democrats at this hearing have used the opportunity to cast aspersions to the job Bill Barr did as Attorney General. I think those aspersions are false. I think he showed enormous courage and fighting to defend the rule of law. Bill Barr, when explicitly asked about whether he would terminate Robert Mueller at his confirmation hearing - the same situation you find yourself - he said he would not terminate him, absent, ‘good cause.' Are you willing to meet the same standard of integrity that Bill Barr demonstrated, and will you make that same commitment to this committee that you will not terminate Mr. Durham absent good cause?"

Judge Garland responded:

"No, but I've said to committee which is that I need to get information about this investigation, which I do not have here. I understand that a decision has been made to keep him in place. And I have absolutely no reason to doubt that that was the right decision and that he should be kept in place. But I can't go any further without learning the facts of the investigation and what the status is."

Sen. Cruz continued:

"Judge Garland, with all due respect, and I recognize you've been a judge for 23, 24 years, judicial nominees sit in that chair and decline to answer just about every question senators pose them. Saying, ‘well, as a judge, I can't commit to how I would rule on any given case.' And that's appropriate. You're not nominated to be a judge in this position. You are nominated to an executive position and you're a constitutional scholar. You understand fully well the difference between Attorney General versus an Article three judge. Bill Barr didn't know the details of the Mueller investigation at the time, but he knew that Bob Mueller was investigating President Trump, that it was highly politically sensitive. And so, to show his integrity and commitment to being nonpartisan, he said he wouldn't terminate Mueller absent good cause. You have the opportunity to do the same thing. The investigation into Durham is highly political. It potentially implicates Joe Biden and Barack Obama. And I just want to be clear, you're refusing to give that same commitment, you want to keep the options open to terminate the investigation."

Judge Garland concluded:

"Look, I'm not refusing to give that commitment because I am a judge. I'm telling you what I think an attorney general ought to do, which is to look at the facts before making a decision. I'm also telling you that I will never make a decision in the department based on politics or on partisanship. So whatever decision I were to make, it would not be based on that. And all I can ask you to do is trust me, based on a record of my 24 years as a judge, my entire career, before that as a prosecutor and my life before that. That's my record of integrity, and that's what you have before you."

Read more on Sen. Cruz's recent efforts to hold those in the intelligence community accountable and to maintain an independent judiciary here. Last year, Sen. Cruz questioned former FBI Director James Comey regarding his role in the FBI's FISA abuse. In August, Sen. Cruz questioned former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on her decision to sign off on an investigation into key Trump campaign aide Carter Page and her role in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In June, Sen. Cruz questioned former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on his role in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

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